Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a problem with how your bowels work and not something wrong with your bowels. People with IBS have belly pain associated with constipation or diarrhea. They can have other problems like bloating, gas, or wanting to poop more often. IBS can cause problems outside of your bowels, such as difficulty with sex drive or pain with sex, muscle aches and pains, tiredness, headaches, back pain, and sometimes trouble with peeing or bladder spasms.
IBS is a very common disorder and scientific tests show that about 10% to 15% of people in the United States have it. IBS is more common in women with almost twice as many women having it than men. We do not really know why women get IBS easier than men, but it does not seem to be because they have different hormones than men. It seems to be because women may feel sensations from the intestines differently. IBS seems to be the same in all different types of people here and around the world.
Only 1 in 4 people with IBS see a doctor about their problem and we do not know why so few people look for help. How much IBS is causing difficulty in someone’s life seems to be the main reason that they decide to see a doctor.
IBS is not dangerous and does not cause people to have a shorter life. It does not seem to lead to more dangerous problems, such as inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis) or colon cancer. The presence of IBS does not put extra stress on the other body organs like the heart, liver, or kidneys. Most people with IBS do very well and should not worry about it causing other serious problems. The worst part of having IBS is that it can make it difficult to live without worrying about dealing with the symptoms.
Unfortunately, IBS is a lifelong problem, but most people with it can do pretty well. Patients with IBS should see their doctor so they can help find treatments that can make them feel better.